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Baby Servals

Nature’s way of saying DO NOT TOUCH

As a game designer (of sorts), there are many ideas that one makes and then never get through. I thought I’d post some of mine.

the cat harvests the stars

This was a game based on Asteroids and a shareware game from the ninties, called Asterax- which only really added power-ups to the very well known “shoot space rocks” formula of Asteroids. You played as a cat in a spaceship (hence “the cat” in the title), shot asteroids, and collected little orbs to gain power and money.

Unlike Asteroids, your ship had “moxie,” which was equivalent to hit points- hitting larger asteroids would cause more damage and be more likely to kill you. The “threat” level of each asteroid was, like several animals in the real world, displayed via color- white asteroids were the slowest, followed by yellow, and red the fastest (and therefore more dangerous). You could regain moxie by collecting orbs-

There were something like 10 different colors of orbs, each which were worth a different value. After completing the level,

you got stats telling you how many orbs you collected and the average value, and could go to the next level or the store.

Most items in the shop were automatically equipped and used, and a few (bonbs [yes, that is not a typo] and missiles) were triggered by a control on the play screen. After playing 3-5 levels per “area,” you’d fight a boss of some sort.

Apparently, in this case, the moon. Eventually, you’d clear all the areas, and…win.

So why wasn’t this game released?

For starters, the controls. The game was planned for the iPhone, and, if you keenly looked at the above screenshots, you have probably noticed the problem. Because iPhones only have two reliable input sources, the touch screen or the accelerometer, you must make sure that the control scheme is simple to use, responsive to input, and doesn’t obfuscate the gameplay or otherwise inconvenience the player. Which sounds like accelerometer would be a perfect fit for the game- but for a very good reason. If you’ve ever watched someone (usually children) play a console/handheld racing game (or other games like Locoroco), you will probably see them tilt their heads or controller as if it would control the action on screen. The problem lies within the disconnect from the real controls and the perceived/enacted control by moving the player’s body, where players would lean more if they wanted their character to make sharper turns. If you devise a game to use an accelerometer (built into the screen of the device, no less), there will likely cause a disconnect between what the player thinks will happen when they tilt the device, what the device registers, and how the game handles the input. For a game like this (and other SCHMUPS), where precision is necessary, an accelerometer is an inelegant solution.

Which then leaves us with on-screen controls, which in many games, isn’t much of a problem. However, if the game has fast moving dangerous objects, in this case the asteroids, that screen real estate becomes very valuable. As the game was in its last inception, the joystick in the lower left controlled movement and attacks (firing shots, missiles or bombs) were placed on the right, which just ate up too much screen. While there are a few ways to remedy this problem (smaller controls; camera locking the player to the middle of the screen and noting threats; shrinking the gameplay area; changing the rotation of the device and placing the controls below the action), several of the ways were unacceptable, others changed the gameplay, and finally, development stopped before any could be implemented.

You’ll notice the awesome graphical quality of the game as well- or lack thereof. The engine the game was built on has/had literally no effects engine aside from particles, which means that the game’s graphical prowess where completely limited to me, unless I wanted to pay out to a designer. The graphics, while passable for me, never really got to where I wanted them to be.

You know, now that I think about it, the second biggest reason this game wasn’t released is because a later build which was over 95% finished, got destroyed somehow, and the latest version on backup (as seen here) was probably under 70% finished. All the bosses had been implemented, the music was in the game, the scenarios were completed, menu and save worked flawlessly. Only a little bit of balancing was necessary to get it out the door (and maybe a fresh coat of paint). The final nail in the coffin was abandoning the engine and moving to programming via C / objective-C- a move that allowed me to program how I wanted to, so I left this game to start on my more ambitious ideas.

So there we go. Playing through it today to grab these screen shots made me want to go back and finish it, but as I have other projects on the burner actively cooking, this will be moved to my freezer.

ooh, triangles!

I just spent the last two hours playing Skyward Sword, and the controls are atrocious. Nintendo is still trying to justify their motion controls, and again, they completely fail at it. The entire system feels heavy and slow, which is exactly what you don’t need for a game that requires speed and precision. Every time you need to use the controls, you’ll constantly be asking yourself- “How is this better than just pressing a button?” But it’s motion controls! You know, 1 to .5, for every motion you do the game kinda does the same thing! That is, if you remembered to reset the center point , which is something you have to do every single time you take out your sword (note, you must do this before you actually fight, which means bringing up a menu or using a tool with a center function), else you’ll just be flailing about wildly. Not that that really matters, as with the auto-lock you can flail about and still connect with the enemy, but I could do all that with a button and save my wrist from years of pain, too. Nintendo manages to shoe horn in enough filler to try to make the motion controls worth it- you must cut the rope like this, or you must hold the sword up to gather energy before you can blah blah blah, but it doesn’t work because the game infrequently matches the sword on the screen to what is happening in real life. It constantly thinks that I’m not swinging the controller hard enough, so Link just stands trying to recreate the “slow sword dance party” from Highlander. Ah, the good old days, when I could stand near a rope that needs to be cut, hit the attack button, and the game would cut the rope! Now, the game just thinks I really dislike the rock face.

And the item system- remember when choosing an item took a quarter of a second, hitting one button? Yeah, those were good times, and they’re gone. Now you’re lucky if you can do the same action in less than 3. Menus as well- in Twilight Princess you used the camera on the Wiimote to point at menu stuff, but now, you’re going to physically have to point the remote to the right or left of your body. Go ahead. Pick up a pencil an hold it in your hand like you were going to shiv someone (like you would hold a remote, that is). Now rotate your wrist to the right. Yes, that is much easier and more comfortable than pointing the remote at something, isn’t it? Oh, wait, your joints probably aren’t made out of rubber.

Of course, the best part about all of this is that you can’t do a thing about it, no options at all to make it move faster or slower, and the only calibration you can do is to just hit the “down” button on the Wiimote, something that is not immediately doable for people without large hands.

Nintendo- just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Motion control is a gimmick that retards the gameplay and is more a disconnect than just pressing a button, because humans, in everyday life (which has very realistic motion controls, perfect 1 to 1), could easily reach out and touch something in front of them and not have it misconstrued as a violent slap to the side of a building with the back of the hand. Didn’t anyone at Nintendo ever wonder why speed runs for Twilight Princess are always done on the Gamecube and not the Wii?

Turning pages

I think this relates to someone’s rant about the iPad recently, which went something like this- we are in the age of a new technology, yet Apple (and others) are still clinging to things of bygone days. Why do certain apps on the iPad try to look like real-world counterparts, counterparts which are not only unknown to many users, but also slower to use than their electronic counterparts?

So the guy who made CSS is now on a tirade about how scroll bars are inadequate and limit how we view web pages, and he wants to replace the system- at least, on tablets- with a “pages” system, like as what would be found in books. He’s advocating a system where content should only be displayed within a set bounds (basically), which is pretty much entirely against the point of not placing limits on how we view content.

Instead of an infinite canvas, on which most of us view our information on the web now, he’s developing a system which replicates, in effect, the paper medium that we’ve grown out of. Turning pages. He makes some good points in his argument, about how it would prevent images from being cropped in strange ways and would prevent massive walls of text, but these are not things that happened because of scroll bar, these are points that happened due to bad design. And while his pages solution is definitely feasible, it will not kill bad design. Nor will it escape the medley of screen sizes and resolution- if I create my work to be natively displayed on my own screen, then anyone with something smaller (which is about 80% of the web-viewing populace) will be viewing something shrunk. While they may not enjoy having to scroll, it am sure it would be a welcome alternative to squinting and trying to read the already small default I use.

Finally, most of this comes down to a design standpoint. We’ve already seen from a majority of websites that his assumption that the return to a more simpler era of having content regulated by a ersatz physical standard would be appreciated, even heralded, is poorly founded. If it were so we would already have seen this kind of limitation in place by many websites. But it is not so- the way we absorb information has changed, and the content as well. Give me one page with a single article and 40 images that I have to scroll through, and I’ll be much more appreciative that 40 pages that break thought, require load, and include some time wasting BS like turning pages.

Read the article about it here: Macworld

and we do

ruining everything

Old-school multiplayer mayhem returns with SPACE BATTLE FIGHT! It’s a battle royale (in space) for up to four players at once to go space-toe to space-toe in a non-stop action extravaganza featuring space-jetpacks, space-lasers, space-shields and even space-planets you can shoot at each other to add to the pandemonium! Join the fun, fight your friends, go head-to-head in a battle in space! SPACE BATTLE FIGHT!

In the hospital because you fell off the table doing a dance of victory after trouncing your friends at a round of SPACE BATTLE FIGHT and broke your leg? No problem! SPACE BATTLE FIGHT has got you covered, with a single player mode that will have you blasting aliens in no time! Can you survive to the mother ship and save the princess?

4 player simultaneous mode!
Power-ups up the power!
Awesome soundtrack that is!
Single player mode that can last forever- if you’re good enough!
Dynamic Eizentron Scaling!
HD 8bit graphics (what?)!

“Super fantastic good laughs by user! Only sound from great enjoyment is that of love!” – an American

“Yeah, I’d totally play this with my students.” – some guy in Japan who teaches university students

“We’ll review your game if you pay us some money!” – Most game review sites

So what are you waiting for? Join the fun, make some friends! Challenge them to a SPACE BATTLE FIGHT!


It’s raining heavily outside, we missed trash pick up a few days ago so the house smells of old eggs and meat. But I’m elated.

Today I found out that a friend of mine, a firefighter in Miyagi prefecture, is still alive.
His house is gone, his car is trashed, but he is still alive.
Tsunami Damage

We’re all happy you made it through the nightmare that was, and are conquering each day as it happens.

Kick ass, Shizu!


this will happen